A friend of mine posted this on Facebook, calling out the name calling and misuse of terms in it. I wanted to respond, since the article was full of… well, frankly odd, demeaning, judgmental and condescending language. Hey, it bugs me, and this is a blog, and this is the internet, so I’m going to write about it.
Why women still need husbands By Suzanne Venker. As posted on Fox News. This post is about this article in particular, though her site has a wealth of other material.
So in this case, I zeroed in on the weird thing – I only wanted to make one comment, and it felt like giving it a line by line reaction and analysis would be like putting a silk lining in a polyester suit: a waste of good material and precision.
The thing I focused on was the fact that this article told me that men only care about one thing, what they want to be and how they ought to be thought of as breadwinners and essentially breadwinners alone. What struck me was that this article is RIFE with comments on women, their “stupidity,” explaining that their financial independence will ultimately leave them unfulfilled, and that a husband is an appropriate financial support structure.
So why did the comments on men stand out?
Because I’m used to being told through peers and media that a baby and family is a goal that I ought to have, being told what amount of work outside the home is appropriate for me, and how my duty to family is greater than a man’s. Women routinely call one another stupid for having different goals or making different choices. Men may do that too, but it’s not often included in the news. We are expected to gobble up instructions and 12-Tips on Being the Kind of Woman Cosmo Says You Want To Be articles. And, as most people crave improvement and fulfillment, articles like that do well. It makes sense, and it’s an easily digestible format too. It’s damaging and cruel white noise on which a great deal of gender commentary is made: that women aren’t being women enough and must have their woman-ness explained to them.
So what was my real take away? That a few sweeping comments and judgements on men stand out over a pile of judgemental comments on the whole of female-kind. Because telling men who or what they are is the unusual thing.
There’s more, but that was the big point.
Here are the rest.
There are a few sinister things going on here, and they really degrade the people the author is discussing:
Men are focused on earning money, and so far as the scope of the article goes, that’s it. She describes how they say they feel responsible for providing financially for families, and goes so far as to suggest that “Unlike women, a man’s identity is inextricably linked to his paycheck.” But for women, “Financial independence is a great thing, but you can’t take your paycheck to bed with you.” In this characterization, it appears while men are all about money, women need to be taught that their money won’t get them companionship. While a man’s earning ability is what makes him a great, supportive partner. Hmmm…
The author mentions women who want families, but here is no mention of men who want families, only men who feel they must provide for families. So… that’s a pretty thunderous silence on the whole ‘do men want families?’ question.
And while we’re on the financial dependency problem, if women’s financial independence is at the expense of their desire for a baby (which, well, it’s not even a matter of discussion that not all women want babies and some love their careers), what does that say about men’s desire for a family? “there’s nothing empowering about being beholden to an employer when what you really want is to have a baby. That’s dependency of a different sort”… this applies only to women and not to men? How so?
“Research shows that what women want more than anything else is not to work full-time and year-round but to live balanced lives.” So… men don’t want work life balance? That’s right. Just more work. Because work is the source of value in a man’s life. Extra points for problematic use of the term “research.”
When discussing the question of women having enough time to spend with their children or have social lives, the author helpfully suggests: “The answer is obvious. Lean on your husband.” Which seems to mean financial support alone meaning women will not have to have jobs, leaving time for the specific desires the author lists. And if a woman wants a career? For the father to be a bigger part of family life? How does leaning on this prescription of a husband/father/man work in that scenario? If his job, sense of purpose and life is based around garnering a paycheck, then how does calling on a partner to do anything else work?
What is a traditional gender role? We get them from a lot of places, for the sake of this I’ll make a few conclusions and you can comment if you think there’s more discussion to be had. Honestly it’d be pretty nice to have an open discussion of what a traditional gender role actually is, since they get referenced almost as much as scripture and can’t be easily looked up, re-read and evaluated like the later can.
What’s a “traditional” man? A father, a business man, or a blue collar worker. Has a woman devoted to him, and is still attractive to others. Has the respect and devotion of children. Is just but stern. Protective. Works outside the home.
What’s a “traditional” woman? A mother, wife, sister, and daughter, devoted to all her familial obligations. Self-sacrificing. Deferential to the judgements of elders and men. Kind, nurturing. Works inside the home.
The men in this article have one driving force, and it’s the accumulation of money. Does it speak at all about family-rearing? nurturing a loving relationship? Building connections? Nope. All about the money. That’s not traditional for a human, that’s unhealthy.
The women in this article? All about finding the best situation for themselves. If they want a baby, they have to find a man to get it, not a career! It’s not painted in terms of having a relationship they want to turn into a family, or finding a life/vocation that is fulfilling. it smacks of crossing “Baby” off a to do list. That’s not traditional for a human, that’s unhealthy.